NEW YORK -- Edwin Diaz, acquired in the off-season to be the Mets closer for years to come, may not even be their closer the next time they take a lead into the ninth inning.
Diaz, who was charged with four earned runs in the ninth inning of the Mets 7-2 loss to the Phillies Friday night at Citi Field, has blown four of his last 10 save opportunities and has seen his ERA soar from 1.54 at the end of April to 5.67 as the Mets head into the All-Star break.
And for the first time all season, Mets manager Mickey Callaway entertained the possibility of moving Diaz, who led the majors with 57 saves last year as a member of the Seattle Mariners, into a lower-leverage role in his bullpen.
“We talk about all kinds of things internally all the time,’’ Callaway said.” I think the one thing we will always try to do is try to use our personnel the best we can, and if somebody steps up and is getting the job done better in that role, than we would consider it probably.’’
The problem for Callaway is he has no real viable option to Diaz.
Jeurys Familia, signed to a three-year, $30 million contract to serve aqs Diaz’ set-up man, has been even worse; his ERA is 7.76 and he allowed two runners he inherited from Diaz to score on Friday, before allowing another of his own. Callaway also has Seth Lugo, who blew three consecutive save opportunities the last week of June, and Steven Matz, recently removed from the starting rotation and placed in the bullpen due to first-inning ineffectiveness. Otherwise, that;’s about it; the Mets bullpen leads the majors in blown saves with 21 and its 5.58 ERA is second-worst in the National League.
Diaz was acquired in a blockbuster trade that also brought Robinson Cano to the Mets in exchange for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Gerson Bautista and two prospects, Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn.
But neither Cano, who is batting .244 and gets regularly booed by the home crowd for a perceived lack of hustle, and Diaz, who is now 1-6, have performed as expected while Bruce, who has 21 home runs and knocked in the go-ahead run off Diaz Friday night, is enjoying a strong bounceback season.
In fact, Diaz is nowhere near the pitcher he was in 2018, when in addition to his 57 saves, he struck out 124 batters in 73-1/3 innings — a 15.2Ks per nine innings ratio — and had a minuscule WHIP of 0.791. Diaz allowed just 16 earned runs all last season. This year, he has already allowed 22 in just 33-1/3 innings.
And neither Callaway nor Diaz seems to have a clue as to what is wrong.
“That’s always tough to say,’’ Callaway said. “There’s a hundred reasons why guys can get affected. It’s hard to identify, You’re working with the mechanics part of it. It’s, you just gotta keep working. It’s hard to tell what happens with guys from year to year. Identifying that can be a challenge sometimes but you can’t give up.’’
Speaking through an interpreter, Diaz was more succinct: “I don’t really have an answer right now.’’
Diaz came into the ninth inning of a game tied at 2 with just one assignment: To keep the score right where it was so the Mets could win it in the bottom of the ninth. Even if they couldn’t salvage the W for Jacob deGrom, who had pitched seven innings of 10 strikeout, three-hit, two-run ball only to come away empty again, at least they could begin their final series before the All-Star break on a positive note.
But five batters later, the Mets trailed by two runs, two more runners were in scoring position and Diaz was leaving the mound under a shower of boos.
“I thought i threw some pretty good pitches, but the results weren’t there for me. That’s how the game goes,’’ he said. “I want to be the closer on this team but if Mickey thinks that’s the way i can find my confidence or just feel more comfortable or try to get right, I’ll pitch wherever he wants me to.’’